Showing posts with label Sci-Fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sci-Fi. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2012

Africans in the '60s - Liberation and Neil Armstrong's Moon Landing

The sad news of Neil Armstrong's passing offers a chance to revisit how much the idea of space travel and race to land a man on the moon also had a powerful hold over the popular imagination of many Africans in the 1960s. One example, of course, is grade-school science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso's Zambian space program and its proposed mission to Mars on the eve of Zambian independence in 1964.

Hinted in Alexis Madrigal's blog post about Nkoloso is a sense of the end of liberation struggle, Zambia's independence day celebrations and, perhaps, the same kind of naiveté, optimism and euphoria we've seen frozen and capsuled by photographers like Philippe Koudjina and Malick Sidebe in the black and white pictures they took of Malian youth in that hopeful time.

The same optimism is captured in a different way in the two 5 mins excerpts below from Congolese auteur  Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda's 2009 short film, We Too Walked on the Moon (Nous aussi avons marché sur la lune), which uses the 1969 American Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon as the year and the backdrop for an interesting glimpse at middle class Congolese lives -- the lives of a teacher, a doctor and an artist.

In the film we get to see each person experience the radio broadcast of the moon landing differently, with the artist (you can see that in the 2nd excerpt) eventually deciding that he must also walk on the moon.

With the news and discussion of a moon landing as a reminder of the technological chasm between Africa and the West, Olivier Barlet's  review over at Africultures, I think, touches the core of Bakupa-Kanyinda's film (Google auto translation + mine):
The film revolves between poems by Aime Cesaire and the Congolese poet Tshiakatumba Mukadi, recited by students under the direction of their teacher.... A slow tracking shot shows various portraits tacked above the blackboard, revealing many major African figures, including Obama, confirming them as sources of inspiration.... For an Africa that suffers from an inferiority complex inherited from the mental integration of its alleged backwardness, the message is simple: be the image of those of you who believed in themselves.
This post is a reworked version of a previous post from July 2nd 2010.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jean-Pierre Bekolo on the State of Cinema

Floyd Webb caught up with Cameroonian auteur Jean-Pierre Bekolo [Quartier Mozart (1992)] a few months back and edited this 4-minute compilation of the director's thoughts about the state of cinema today.

More: a kick ass 2008 interview with Indiana University's Akin Adesokan over @ Postcolonial Text and an old post on Bekolo and black sci-fi/ speculative fictions - for example, his use of Cameroonian beliefs about female sexuality in Les Saignents (2005) as the jump off point into a film noir-African speculative future.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

South Africa: Lauren Beukes on South African Sci-Fi

i09  talks to SA writer Lauren Beukes about winning the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award for her book, Zoo City, set in a cyberpunk dystopic Jo-burg:

This part on Jo-burg as a hybrid first and third world mash-up stood out:
....from the feedback I've had from readers on Twitter and in blog reviews and emails, that's certainly part of what resonates with them - it's also the setting, that Johannesburg is unusual, a mash-up of culture and class, third world and first, that is largely foreign and unknown to a lot of people. And I do try to tackle the issues that make me angry in my fiction, from surveillance society to xenophobia to the divides between people and the evils of autotune. It's fantastical and it has magical animals and ghosts that communicate through cell phones and emails and crime and music and refugees and inner city slums, but at heart it's a book about guilt and the possibility of redemption.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Burkina Faso: The Revolution will be Embedded

"Futuristic hip hop meets soul in a trip-hoppy electronic haze..."

Baya Nooma by Art Melody. Album: Zound Zandé (“The Decay”), 2Prod. Redrum and mastered by Dave Cooley, Banzaï Lab / Tentacule Records, 2011.

ThisisAfrica breaks it down.

H/T: Mondomix

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ghana: Afrofuturism - The E-Wastelands of Magic and Cyber-Crime

Peter Hugo's photographs of the people and landscape of an expansive dump of obsolete technology in Ghana, on the outskirts of a slum known as Agbogbloshie, is referred to by local inhabitants as "Sodom and Gomorrah":

More pics from Hugo's permanent error - here

Louis Chude-Sokei puts one of these e-waste dumps into prose in a 2010 essay, Invisible Missive Magnetic Juju: On African Cyber-Crime:
It’s fascinating to imagine how these blank-screened cadaverous wholes and frayed bits and pieces have all gotten here. There’s so much black glass that it is like the landscape of an indecisive volcano. These used computers have been donated by Western charity organizations and faith-based NGOs and given the Nigerian tendency to use things even beyond their given function or recognizability, their presence here is only temporary. A great many were brought from Ghana or up from South Africa while a steady stream arrived from China even before that country began its obsessive courting of West and Central Africa. But the vast majority of these machines, parts and components have been shipped by or brought in by enterprising Nigerians who since the late 1980s have known that what would mark this generation of West Africans more than blight, violence or corruption was a hunger for Web-based connectivity, that narcotic rush of shared information. With almost no formal education whatsoever, many would learn how to rig, rewire, rebuild and master the essentials of computing in these glorified junkyards. They learned from ragged men with soldering irons in their pockets that pushed wheelbarrows filled with screens, wires and keyboards, with the wild-eyed look of juju men drunk on that vile moonshine called ogogoro.
We posted the Vice Guide episode containing segments on Ghana's Sakawa Boys a while back. Here is the full cut:

We've seen this before: the worst of old traditions it, dust off and mixed with crime and commerce. For example, you see the mix in  Albino killings in East Africa or prostitution rings trafficking girls into Europe (here and here). It seems the Ghanaian equivalent are the services of the voodoo priests adapting to the "get rich quick" dreams of the denizens of  the (e-)wastelands, and, lo and behold, an old commerce of advance fee fraud gets reborn.

At his blog, Ghanaian Afro-cyberpunk enthusiast, Jonathan Dotse, refers to the Sakawa boys as "hacking the natural mystic" - he connects some of the dots:
...sakawa boys, employ the services of traditional priests with the purpose of supernaturally enforcing the co-operation of their ‘clients;’ the potential victims of their online scams. Sakawa boys have managed to hack Africa’s natural mystic; redefine her unique cosmology, and twist it to suit their purposes. As destructive as their activities are, we still can learn from this fascinating illustration the way in which cultural evolution occurs over time, mediated by technology, in constant exchange with the rest of the world, growing ever more nuanced and intricate with each step forward. I expect to see many more of such interactions between culture and technology in the near future, and I’m sure that if we pay more attention to such phenomena we will be better able to navigate through the turbulent waters of our near future.
H/T: Poptech

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

South Africa: Korine and the Antwoord

Indy director Harmony Korine + Die Antwoord = Umshini Wam.  Perfect collision of two kinds of white rural angst. Plus Ninja and Yolandi as trigger happy, homicidal rabbits pay hommage to all those bunny ears in Gummo:


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Africa: Gaming Immersion Universal

Looking at the rapt faces of the Soweto children in the CNN report reminded us of British photographer Robbie Cooper's 2008 project, Immersion, (NYT slideshow here), wherein a camera hidden behind a glass reflecting the video game captures the rapt attention of the children as they played.

Yeah, we all share a common humanity. How about our humanity feels all that more shared and common in the child-like immersion engendered by a video game.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kenya: Benji Goes to Hollywood

Reuters Africa Journal profiles U.S based Kenyan actor, Benjamin "Benji" Ochieng, aka Colonel Emanuel Okeze, the prince's bodyguard who faces off with Bruce Willis at his gruffest in Tears of the Sun (2003). Ochieng takes us through his rise from the ranks of the Hollywood extra to finally nailing a speaking part--hence the sought after union card--when the producers on the X Files were told he could speak Swahili.

The clip of Ochieng on the beach, helping Scully find the alien artifact, is from "The Sixth Extinction" episode of the X Files (part 2 of the Biogenesis story arc) from season 7. However, it seems he didn't tell the X Files producers that since their script called for a West Africa beach/coastline, ideally, nobody in that part of Africa should speak or understand Swahili :) [We've referred to that X File episode here and blogged about the other Africa-related X File episode "Teliko," Eps 3, Season 4 (1996), which deals with Albinism].

Anyway, the profile is a nice look at an African actor in Hollywood, struggling it out with everyone else.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Africa: "There was not a Lot of AIDS or HIV Narratives... There are Other Things to Talk About..." - New African Writing

Click the pic below for editor Emma Dawson's illuminating talk with The Strand about her traveling into the thick of contemporary Africa with an open mind and off the beaten path to source new African writing for a series...

...of anthologies she's been editing (links to opening pages + author bios PDFs): The Spirit Machine and other new short stories from Cameroon , 2) Daughters of Eve and other new short stories from Nigeria , 3) Butterfly Dreams and other new short stories from Uganda and 4) Man of the House and other new short stories from Kenya

She talks about coming across writing trends and short stories that suggest if not the beginnings of genres at least a preoccupation with, for example, crime writing and Noir in Nigeria (which brings to our minds the series of Pacesetters books for teens popular in the '80s or the more recent  Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe) or sci-fi writing in Yaounde (...and won't it be interesting if aspects of African sci-fi became synonymous with Cameroon, considering Paul Biya has ruled the country for 35 years plus the sci-fi ground work already laid down in the work of Jean-Pierre Bekolo with Quartier Mozart (1992) and Les Saignantes (2005). Judging the 2010 BBC Radio Africa Playwriting Competition, Wole Soyinka also spoke about spotting some sci-fi plays.

More important, Dawson spots in the writing coming out of the contemporary Africa thicket the interesting absence of stories towing narratives about HIV/AIDS; rather the stories freely explore other African issues and concerns.

South African-based, Nigerian-born author and publisher Moky Makura would agree. Describing her Nollybooks line of romance books or "chick lit" for teenage girls, she points to the zero mention in the books of HIV/AIDS or the other heavy negative issues synonymous with the continent. She argues that there are other things going on:

Last month's BBC Focus on African "chick-lit" publishing - here. Also, 2006 Caine prize winner E.C. Osundu 03/02/2011 talk with the Strand about short story writing - here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This blog is all about sampling and remixing a certain kind of information about a certain kind of subject, thus Kirby Ferguson "Everything is a Remix" series has been dear to our heart.

Part one looked at music, which we remixed - here. Part 2 focuses on film:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kenya: What's Swahili for Star Trek?

Apparently, Martin Luther King was a trekkie. Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, a female black bridge officer on "Star Trek" the original series (1967-69), recounts in a new PBS series about "pioneers of [American] television" how King encouraged her in '67 to stay with the show:
"One of the promoters came up and said someone wanted to meet me. He said he's my greatest fan," says Nichols, 78. "I thought it was some Trekker, some kid. I turned in my seat and there was Dr. Martin Luther King with a big smile on his face. He said, 'I am a Trekker, I am your biggest fan.'"Nichols thanked King, and told him she was leaving the show.... "He was telling me why I could not [resign]," she recalls. "He said I had the first nonstereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'" Nichols was at a loss for words. It was the first time the importance of being an African-American woman on television had sank in. She returned to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry the next Monday morning and rescinded her resignation. "He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me,'" Nichols says.
Above, at the 92nd Y a couple of days ago, she retells how Nimoy's Spork, inadvertently, was the template for her character and how Uhura came from the title of Robert Ruark's 1962 follow up novel about postcolonial Kenya after the mau mau uprising. Below, in her '03 retelling for the DVD, she includes how Uhura got her first name - Nyota.

Her wiki entry concurs. i09 on other MLK influences on sci-fi .

H/T: S & A

Nigeria: Nnedi Okorafor on Nnedi Okorafor

Part one of an hour long discussion with fantasy-sci-fi writer Nnedi Okorafor. Here she touches on race, paralysis and plant worlds. Thoughts on her earlier thoughts on a proclivity for enjoying "nonsense and weirdness".

Friday, December 17, 2010


Buildings in Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City (demolished in '93) couldn't expand past the boundaries of the Chinese fort which they occupied or rise any higher because of the city's proximity to Kai Tak Airport. So, using up every space available, the city's buildings over time seem to merge into a single solid block of slum, or into a dystopian mega slum-city and architecture sci-fi heads refer to as an arcology. The '89 German documentary (below) of the sprawl has English subtitles:

H/T: i09

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Africa: Rushdie's Take - Timid African Fiction and Non-Fiction Writers, Cont'd

Flogging that John Nwazemba-Tolu Ogunlesi horse about African writers being terribly timid when it comes to writing about other people and cultures, we thought why don't we pose the question to the quintessential immigrant writer, Mr. Rushdie, and see what he thinks:

In the clip above (transcript - here) his response to a question by Max Miller over at Big Think wades into the issue and he admits that there is a double standard or colonial "hangover" that's "fading away" when it comes to Third World writers writing back. Oh, and for all aspiring African male writers out there wondering if chicks dig fatwas. Here's your reply.

Also, up for awhile over at the BBC World Service is Ugandan Deborah Asiimwe's winning radio play for the BBC African Performance 2010 and Wole Soyinka's comments about it. The play and clip indirectly reveal writing about immigrant disillusionment in foreign lands is definitely part and parcel, though a small aspect, of the issue of the postcolonial empire strikes back critically.

Soyinka also mentioned that it is about time we saw an African sci-fi play. Since he is talking about radio plays, that got us thinking Orson Welles' "war of the worlds," which reminded us, again, of this strange tale from Ghana.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ghana: John Akomfrah, The Odyssey and Archival Punk - Strictly for Film Geeks, Cont'd

Pack ratting a lot of Ghanaian-British filmmaker John Akomfrah into this post since his most recent film essay/ BFI exhibit, Mnemosyne (or Nine Muses), (reviews: S&A's - here /S&S' - here/ Diagonal Thoughts' - here), which is a take on Homer's Odyssey, provided a number of fora for him to talk philosophize about film in general and voice his thoughts on pushing its vocabulary to re frame issues of identity, migration and hyphenated or hybrid lives.

In this conversation with Helen Dewitt, he talks about the use of film archives and the idea of "a recycling aesthetic; a post-scarcity aesthetic, which allows the possibility of re-use but for an ethical reason of revisiting [black migrant] memory and past."

In this conversation with the Strand he talks about removing the archival migrant images, if not from their original contexts, from the bias of the original narrator or narrative.

In the conversation below (click on cap) with author Colin Prescord, Akomfarah associates Mnemosyne' archival recycling and re-use construction to a methodology that comes to grips with the phenomenology of black migrant experience.

Below, with the help of an Italian translator, he talks at the Venice film fest, 2010, about trying to make science fiction out of archival materials and admits to his embrace of recycling, re-use, defying boundaries and categories as true to the spirit of punk. Which translates to bushpunk around here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

South Africa: The Revolution will be Embedded

Noorderlig - Die Heuwels Fantasties. Animation: I Am Collective

H/T: 10 to 5


TAT's Open Innovation experiment shows the future of screen technology by 2014 with stretchable screens, transparent screens and e-ink displays... and McCloud's Understanding Comics still on our bedside tables? 8 years on, our Steven Speilberg inspired Minority Report-future is already stuff pushing a walking stick:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

South Africa/ Canada: District 7 and a Half?

Gawker chides what they call the montauk monster sighting in what Slash film suspects is a clip-made-to-go-viral from District 9 director Neil Blomkamp's next sci-fi film, which no one seems to know anything about. But we recall pt 2 of this interview (blogged here) with LA Times' Hero Complex from '09, where he gave some vague pointers abt his next project:
And now MRC is another finance group and they’re putting together the cash for my next film based on a treatment I wrote. I had the idea in my head for about a year. I wrote it within a month of finishing “District 9,” so July or something I suppose, or May. It was May. So I wrote it in May and I sent it to them and they agreed to do it. So now I’m writing....Not much. I’m trying to keep it to myself at this point. But it is science fiction and it has many sociopolitical ideas that interest me. Those ideas are wrapped up inside something that is like a Hollywood action film...This next movie will cost more than “District 9” but it will cost much, much less than the big summer films. You can do a lot for less now. It’s all about process, too. If go into it knowing what you want to accomplish, you can save money. If you go into it trying to figure out what you want, it’s going to cost a lot of money. The other aspect is trimming it down. It’s like a diet. Instead of 2,000 effects shots, you can probably do with 1,000. Those kinds of sacrifices are worth it if you get to make something that is not in any way generic.
Actually, "montauk monster" sighting reminds us--if it chose to wake up-- of the ass creature in the wonderful, sick and disturbing NSFW teaser to the incoming movie, Roid Rage:


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